they dance under a pavilion surrounded by clapping friends
Dominique Lando and Brian Malis dance at their wedding (Photo/Darren Miller)

From Burning Man to Mendocino, taking the long road to marriage

In 2009, Dominique Lando said goodbye to Brian Malis at Burning Man. They were friends after years of an on-again, off-again relationship, and he had just fallen in love with someone else.

Lando’s friends all witnessed the teary farewell.

“Everyone knew something big was happening; I was crying and my friends put their hands on me,” she recalled.

But deep down, Lando felt that she and Malis would grow old together. “I’d always say, ‘I think we’re going to [be together] when we’re older,’ “ she said. “And I was right.”

The back-and-forth was a pattern that characterized the couple’s 14-year relationship, with Malis more ready to commit than Lando. There were years when they didn’t talk at all, and there were times when they spoke every day, even offering each other relationship advice. And in between, they’d always come back to each other.

in wedding dress and suit
Dominique Lando and Brian Malis (Photo/Darren Miller)

Malis, 42, is an entrepreneur originally from Los Angeles. At the time they met, he was living near Tucson, Arizona. Lando, 43, grew up in Paris and came to the U.S. to attend college in Boston, later moving to the Bay Area. She is a marriage and family therapist and adjunct professor at the California Institute for Integral Studies and John F. Kennedy University.

The two first met in the summer of 2000. Malis was on his way to a music festival with a friend. En route, they stopped to sit in on a transpersonal psychology class at JFK University, where Lando was finishing her Ph.D. Their visit coincided with her very last class.

Afterward, Malis struck up a conversation with Lando in the student lounge. That led to a coffee date, which lasted three hours. Coincidentally, Lando had been planning to attend the same music festival as Malis, and the pair became inseparable for the 48 hours they were there.

Though they acknowledged that meeting each other was special, neither was looking for a serious relationship at the time. She was 27; he was 26.

Malis was soon off to Australia, and Lando was on her way to France and Israel. On her way home, she took a layover to visit him. Soon after that, they spent several weeks together camping on beaches in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, she’d been planning a trip to India, and stopped to see him on her way. She had cold feet about traveling there solo, and Malis realized he didn’t want her to go. Nevertheless, he told her she should go.

“I didn’t want to keep her from some experience she needed to have,” he said.

Whenever Malis had suggested they commit, Lando balked.

“There was this part of me that would say ‘She’s the one,’ ” he said, “but the other part would be crushed again and again, thinking it’s just not going to happen.”

After their Burning Man goodbye, Malis lived in Eugene, Oregon. Lando was in Berkeley and was torn between two men. Occasionally she’d consult a psychic, who told her: “There’s another guy, someone you already know.”

I didn’t need to date him, I knew him.

In 2013, Malis came to the Bay Area to attend some Dead shows to cure his broken heart after a three-year relationship had ended, and he and Lando saw each other for the first time in five years. Shortly after, he started dating another woman, and while Lando was trying to figure out her love life, he invited her to attend the Oregon County Fair.

“I figured I’d come and watch them fall in love and tried to talk other friends into coming with me,” she recalled.

Instead, Malis and his girlfriend broke up right before the fair, so Malis and Lando spent the time together. “I didn’t need to date him, I knew him,” she said.

“Brian is my wizard, and I needed a wizard,” said Lando. “He’s a magical being. I knew I wouldn’t be bored with him.”

Said Malis: “Dom is one of the most self-aware people I’ve ever met and she empowers everyone to be authentic and more real. I love the space she holds, the people she’s surrounded by and the life she’s created for herself.”

Malis moved to Berkeley in 2014. He and Lando became engaged in New Zealand and their daughter Juniper was born on March 2, 2016.

They were married Sept. 24 in Mendocino by Zelig Golden, founding director of Wilderness Torah. The seven blessings were delivered by friends, each one a specific trait that the couple hoped for in their marriage.

During the reception, the energy was so high and the hora so vigorous that the wooden dance floor collapsed, causing the tent to catch fire before it was quickly put out. There were a few minor injuries, and the floor had to be taken apart. Dancing resumed on the earth.

“For 16 years, we had been building toward this,” said the groom. He meant the marriage, of course.

Headshot of Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."